Celebration of Sport and Culture at the North American Indigenous Games

I love a wide variety of sports, and in particular I look forward to hunkering down on the couch every four years to watch all kinds of events during both the Winter and Summer Olympics. In between there are many other international competitions which feature elite athletes, and I will admit that for the most part I barely notice them. I was intrigued a few days ago when I heard about the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

This competition kicks off this weekend, with opening ceremonies on July 16. And it’s happening in the Greater Toronto Area! I have done my best to read about this event, its athletes and its cultural significance to the Indigenous people of North America, and I will share a few details I have learned with you here.

The NAIG showcases the extraordinary talent of over 5,000 young Indigenous athletes from across North America. They will be competing in 14 different sports, including athletics, baseball, swimming and wrestling, among others. The athletes will compete at venues located around the Greater Toronto Area, the Region of Hamilton and Six Nations of the Grand River over a period of eight days.

But it’s not just about the sports and the competition. Like the Maccabiah Games I wrote about last week, this event is also about the celebration of Indigenous culture across North America. The competitors at the NAIG range from age 13 to 19, and participating teams come from all 13 Canadian provinces and territories as well as 13 regions from across the United States.

I am intrigued by the Cultural Village that is being hosted at York University and McMaster University, that the website states will “feature a variety of Indigenous artisans, interactive booths, elders, vendors, and Indigenous artists and performers, with nightly entertainment.”

While the spirit of competition is great and provides the opportunity for thousands of youth to push their physical limits, I feel that the best part of this event is the opportunity for Indigenous Peoples to showcase and share their unique cultural heritage.  I applaud the North American Indigenous Games Council for putting this event together for over 25 years, and I look forward to following the Games over the coming week as we all celebrate great athleticism and Indigenous culture.

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